Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign staff salaries were effectively covered by the hospital industry, even as her top lobbying group pursued preferential policies in her proposed state budget.
A total of 43 campaign staffers began receiving state Democratic paychecks on the same day that the Greater New York Hospital Association transferred $125,000 as part of nearly $1 million in gifts last year to the party’s so-called “housekeeping” account. . It is reported by Buffalo News on Tuesday.
Good government groups say the unusual arrangement, while not illegal, shows how electoral law allows for vague agreements between elected officials, state parties and powerful interest groups.
“It’s just Golden Age politics, and the elected government of New York is just completely immersed in dark money and pay-to-play,” John Caney, chief executive of Reinvent Albany, said Tuesday.
Existing rules limit contributions to elected officials, but not business accounts, which are designed to help parties and legislative election committees meet their day-to-day expenses.
“The Household Account is a loophole that swallows up New York City’s already too lax campaign contribution limits,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Last year, not a single staff member received a paycheck from the Democratic Party’s public account — at least not until the November election was over and money began to flow to the people who worked on Hohul’s campaign.
Hochul staff made even more money from the party than the campaign itself, according to The Buffalo News, with total spending rising from about $250,000 a month to about $363,000, while the campaign continued to pay for former employees’ medical expenses until the end. 2022. .
State Party Chairman Jay Jacobs did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
He told The Buffalo News that the influx of hospital money and outgoing payments to ex-employees was “strictly coincidental” while their experience helped with the January event, though their salary apparently only covered until the end of 2022.
Her former campaign manager, Brian Lenzmeier, made $18,000 in his first month on his party payroll, compared to the $12,100 a month he earned from overseeing Hohul’s campaign in the next gubernatorial election in a generation.
And the latest donation of $125,000 from the Hospitals Association of Greater New York went to the party box office on the same day that former campaign staffers began getting paid from the same account.
Meanwhile, the hospital industry had billions in budget requests for the governor, who held a secret meeting last September with a well-connected donor with ties to the healthcare industry after he made a big contribution to her campaign.
“Governor Hochul’s proposed budget provides a solid foundation to meet the ever-increasing revenue needs of the hospital community,” GNYHA President Kenneth Raske said of the February 1 Hochul budget, raising some specific points.
GNYHA spokesman Brian Conway on Tuesday declined to answer questions about why the group donated so much to the state party and whether the generosity was requested by the governor.
“The political contributions of the GNYHA are in the public domain,” he said in a statement.
Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hayes denied that any favorable treatment was ever the result of the hospital industry actually covering severance pay for dozens of her campaign staff.
“As we have always said, campaign donations have no influence on government decisions and we reject any suggestion to the contrary,” Crampton-Hayes said.
Last year, Hochul was repeatedly criticized for alleged pay-to-play arrangements by campaign sponsors when she raised a record-breaking military budget while seeking a full term in office after replacing a disgraced ex-governor. Andrew Cuomo in 2021.
The first female governor has vowed to redesign the historically scandal-ridden State Capitol into a more transparent and ethical venue, although the ongoing dispute over her campaign money highlights limited progress on that front.
Real estate developers have her backing in the budget process to extend the expiring tax credit, while Hollywood donors will benefit from her proposed expansion of lucrative tax credits.
The governor also faced harsh criticism for her administration’s no-bid $637 million contract for rapid tests with a New Jersey-based company founded by a campaign supporter whose son also got a job with her campaign.
New revelations that hospital money is flowing into state party business accounts are now causing a new wave of concern from state watchers, who note that existing laws and enforcement fall far short of what New Yorkers need from their state government.
“There are only a few law enforcement officers on the State Board of Elections, and they are infringed, intentionally infringed by the rules, and there aren’t that many to start with, so there are a lot of laws and regulations that are practically not enforced, and even then they are full of loopholes,” said Kanye. “So the whole system is pretty disgusting.”